John Bryson resigns as commerce secretary, cites seizure

Posted June 21, 2012, at 9:22 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Commerce Secretary John Bryson has resigned, saying the seizure that he suffered on June 9 that led to two Southern California hit-and-run accidents could be a distraction in the job.

“I have concluded that the seizure I suffered on June 9th could be a distraction from my performance as Secretary and that our country would be better served by a change in leadership of the Department,” Bryson wrote to President Barack Obama in a letter dated Wednesday.

Bryson informed Obama of his decision on Wednesday night, and the president announced Thursday that he had accepted Bryson’s resignation.

“I want to extend my deepest thanks and appreciation to John for his service over the past months, and wish him and his family the very best,” said Obama, who planned to meet with Bryson Thursday afternoon in the Oval Office to personally thank him for his tenure.

Bryson, 68, a former chief executive at Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison, was found unconscious on June 9 behind the wheel of his Lexus. He had hit two cars, one of them twice, authorities said. Bryson was hospitalized overnight, and tests showed no drugs or alcohol were involved.

Two days later, the Commerce Department said Bryson had suffered a seizure, and he took a medical leave. He had been commerce secretary since October.

Syrian fighter pilot uses jet to defect to Jordan

BEIRUT — A Syrian pilot defected to Jordan on Thursday, flying his MiG-21 fighter jet south across the border and seeking asylum at a Jordanian air base in the first such case involving a plane since the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s rule began 15 months ago.

The defection came hours after the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, issued the most direct appeal yet to members of the Syrian security forces to abandon the regime and join the opposition. Though there is no indication that the pilot was responding to the appeal, posted on the Facebook page of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, the defection was welcomed in Washington as a further sign of building discontent within the Syrian military.

The defection came on a day of surging violence across Syria, with human rights groups and activists reporting at least 96 deaths nationwide. Most of the deaths resulted from intense shelling of rebel strongholds in the provinces of Homs and Daraa as the Syrian army intensified a push to recapture areas that have fallen under rebel control.

Sweden on alert, explosives found near nuke plant

STOCKHOLM — Sweden ramped up security at its three nuclear power plants Thursday after a small amount of explosives without a triggering device was found on a forklift on the grounds of the country’s largest atomic power station, authorities said. Police were investigating possible sabotage, but insisted that even if there had been a blast it would not have posed any great danger.

Bomb-sniffing dogs detected the explosives in a routine check Wednesday afternoon by security staff in the power plant’s industrial area near its high-security enclosure. Police declined to describe the amount or type of explosive.

Bomb technicians said the material lacked a detonating device, meaning there was no danger of an imminent explosion.

“But even if it would have been equipped with a detonator, a potential blast would have had pretty limited effects — the truck would have received some damage and perhaps some passers-by would have been injured, but it wouldn’t have harmed the plant in any way,” police spokesman Tommy Nyman said.

With police providing little information, a terror expert speculated it might have been an attempt to test the security system of the Ringhals power plant with a later attack in mind.

Four nuclear reactors are at Ringhals, 45 miles south of Sweden’s second-largest city, Goteborg, which has a population of 550,000 people. The plant is controlled by energy companies Vattenfall and E.ON.

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